Posted: 6:00 am Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Countdown to camp: Day 7 — Linebackers 

By D. Orlando Ledbetter

Outside linebacker/defensive end Kroy Biermann stretching before an OTA practice. Can he makeit back from a ruptured achilles tendon?  (By D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

Outside linebacker/defensive end Kroy Biermann stretching before an OTA practice on June 4. Can he make it back from a ruptured achilles tendon? (By D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

FLOWERY BRANCH — The countdown can kick into overdrive this weekend.

Coach Mike Smith, who’s been out in Montana, and general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who’s been out cycling with Lance Armstrong, return to the office Monday.

The rookies report Tuesday, veterans on Thursday and the first practice is set for Friday.

We started our countdown 10 days out.

Countdown to camp: Day 10 – The new coaches

Countdown to camp: Day 9 – Special teams

Countdown to camp: Day 8 – Defensive backs

Today, we’ll look at the revamped linebacker corps.

The three linebackers who started in the NFC championship game after the 2013 season must be replaced. Stephen Nicholas was released, Akeem Dent was traded to Houston and Sean Weatherspoon suffered a season-ending ruptured achilles tendon on June 10.

Here’s our projected depth chart for the linebackers.

OLB 71 Kroy Biermann, 48 Brenden Daley, 45 Jacques Smith

MLB 55 Paul Worrilow, 52 Tim Dobbins, 54 Yawin Smallwood

OLB 59 Joplo Bartu, 53 Prince Shembo, 51 Marquis Spruill, 46 Walker May

Kroy Biermann, a defensive end by trade, spent a lot of time with the linebackers last season before rupturing his Achilles tendon in the second game of the season. He’s really a hybrid who allows the Falcons to shift from the 4-3 to 3-4.

Worrilow and Bartu, both undrafted rookie free agents, ended last season as starters. Worrilow led the team in tackles with 137. Bartu was third with 96.

Both need to make major improvements if the defense is going to be much better.Falcons Hard knocks

Last season, Worrilow played 491 snaps and missed eight tackles at inside linebacker and was ranked 45th in the league by Pro Football Focus. He played 309 snaps at outside linebacker, had four missed tackles and was ranked 25th in the league.

Bartu played 789 snaps at outside linebacker, had 12 missed tackles and was ranked 22nd in the league.

“I think that’s going be a very interesting dynamic when we go through our training camp,” Smith said at the end of minicamp. “We’ve got two guys that started for us last year.”

The Falcons also plan to force-feed information to fourth-round pick Prince Shembo, who has a shot to crack the starting lineup.

“We’ve got Prince Shembo, who we are very excited about,” Smith said. “He’s picked up the system very well. He doesn’t have any experience, but we will get him a lot, I can assure you that, in the preseason.”

One of the hallmarks of Smith’s early teams here in Atlanta was that they were certain tacklers, who were rarely out of position. Over the past couple of seasons, the tackling techniques have slipped drastically.

“We have spent an inordinate amount of time on that in this offseason,” Smith said. “We have to be a better tackling team. We can’t let the ball get to the second-level and put our defensive backs out in space.

“Even though some people believe that we didn’t tackle well in the secondary, well the ball shouldn’t have reached the secondary.”

(NOTE: Video was shot before Sean Weatherspoon’s injury. Nolan has some insightful comments about Worrilow and Bartu.)

The Falcons added veteran linebacker Tim Dobbins.

He spent his first four seasons in San Diego where he played in 62 games with 10 starts. In 2008, he registered career highs with 78 tackles (42 solo), one interception and three forced fumbles.

In 2010 under Nolan, Dobbins played in 16 games with six starts and finished the season with 43 total tackles. A native of Nashville, Dobbins played collegiately at Iowa State.

PROJECTED 2014 TRAINING CAMP DEPTH CHART

OFFENSE

WR11 Julio Jones, 13 Darius Johnson, 14 Courtney Roby, 18 Freddie Martino, 89 Bernard Reedy,

LT 72 Sam Baker, 76 Lamar Holmes, 74 Terren Jones

LG 63 Justin Blalock, 68 Gabe Carimi, 67 Adam Replogle

C 61 Joe Hawley, 66 Peter Konz, 62 James Stone

RG 75 Jon Asamoah, 69 Harland Gunn

RT 70 Jake Matthews, 79 Mike Johnson 73 Ryan Schrader

TE 80 Levine Toilolo, 86 Bear Pascoe, 82 Mickey Shuler, 81 Jacob Pedersen, 49 Brian Wozniak

WR 84 Roddy White, 83 Harry Douglas, 15 Geraldo Boldewijn, 16 Julian Jones, 87 Tramaine Thompson

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 T.J. Yates, 12 Sean Renfree, 9 Jeff Mathews

RB 39 Steven Jackson, 32 Jacquizz Rodgers, 35 Antone Smith, 33 Devonta Freeman, 30 Josh Vaughan, 34 Jerome Smith

FB  42 Patrick DiMarco, 45 Maurice Hagens, 43 Roosevelt Nix

4-3 DEFENSE (with an extra line for the nickel back)

RE 95 Jonathan Babineaux, 50 Osi Umenyiora, 96 Jonathan Massaquoi, 90 Stansly Maponga

DT 99 Tyson Jackson, 91 Corey Peters, 92 Travian Robertson

DT 96 Paul Soliai, 97 Peria Jerry, 98 Cliff Matthews, 65 Donte Rumph

LE 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 98 Malliciah Goodman, 49 Tyler Starr, 64 Nosa Equae

OLB 71 Kroy Biermann, 48 Brenden Daley, 45 Jacques Smith

MLB 55 Paul Worrilow, 52 Tim Dobbins, 54 Yawin Smallwood

OLB 59 Joplo Bartu, 53 Prince Shembo, 51 Marquis Spruill, 46 Walker May,

RCB 21 Desmond Trufant, 28 Javier Arenas, 37 Ricardo Allen,

NB 26 Josh Wilson, 27 Robert McClain, 28 Javier Arenas, 41 Dezmen Southward

LCB 23 Robert Alford, 24 Jordan Mabin, 43 Devonta Glover-Wright

SS 25 William Moore, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 40 Kimario McFadden, 22 Zeke Motta

FS 20 Dwight Lowery, 41 Dezmen Southward, 29 Sean Baker

SPECIALISTS

K 3 Matt Bryant, 6 Sergio Castillo

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 17 Devin Hester, 28 Javier Arenas, 14 Courtney Roby

PR  17 Devin Hester, 27 Robert McClain, 28 Javier Arenas

LS  47 Josh Harris

 H 5 Matt Bosher

TRAINING CAMP SCHEDULE

Date                                                      Practice Times (public availability)

Tuesday, July 22                                Rookies report

Thursday, July 24                          Veterans report

Friday, July 25                                    Practice 3:30 – 5:50 p.m. (open to the public)

Saturday, July 26                              Practice 3:30 – 5:50 p.m. (open to the public)

Sunday, July 27                                 Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Monday, July 28                               Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Tuesday, July 29                               Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Wednesday, July 30                        Players’ Day Off (No Media Availability)

Thursday, July 31                              Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Friday, August 1                              “Friday Night Lights” at Archer High School (Lawrenceville)

                                                            6:45 – 9:10 p.m. (open to the public)

Saturday, August 2                          Practice 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. (open to the public)

Sunday, August 3                             Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Monday, August 4                           Combined Practice w/Tennessee  3-5:30 p.m.                                                (open to the public)

Tuesday, August 5                           Players’ Day Off (No Media Availability)

Wednesday, August 6                    Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Thursday, August 7                         Pregame Walkthrough (No Media Availability)

Friday, August 8                                Falcons vs. Miami Dolphins

                                                                Georgia Dome

                                                                7:00 p.m. ET – CW69

 Saturday, August 9                          Practice 4:30 – 5:45 p.m. (open to the public)

 Sunday, August 10                           Players’ Day Off (No Media Availability)

 Monday, August 11                         Practice 3:30 – 5:50 p.m. (open to the public)

 Tuesday, August 12                         Practice 10:00 a.m. – 12:35 p.m. (open to the public)

 Wednesday, August 13                 Combined Practice w/ Houston Texans (Houston, TX)

Thursday, August 14                       Combined Practice w/ Houston Texans (Houston, TX)

Friday, August 15                             Pregame Walkthrough (No Media Availability)

Saturday, August 16                        Falcons at Houston Texans

                                                                NRG Stadium

                                                                8:00 p.m. ET – CW69

 Sunday, August 17                           Players’ Day Off (No Media Availability)

Monday, August 18                         Practice 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. (closed to the public)

                                                                Break Camp

MANDATORY MINICAMP REVIEW

Q&A with Falcons QB T.J. Yates

Falcons to practice with Titans, Texans in training camp

Falcons coach Mike Smith will try to rebound from first losing season on Hard Knocks 

Sam Baker is back to help line re-establish its identity

Falcons WR Roddy White: ‘Hard for me to deal with’ death of a brother

How much the Falcons rookies will be paid

Rookies getting advice on NFL life

Open competition in training camp will be good for Undrafted Rookies

 THE LATEST FROM OTAS

Sean Weatherspoon suffers season-ending Achilles injury

What’s next for Sean Weaatherspoon?

What’s next for the Falcons at linebacker?

Javier Arenas gets to watch longtime role model

Falcons cut Szczerba, Yoklic

Falcons minicamp is open to the public

VIDEO CORNER

Sean Weatherspoon to miss 2014 season

Matt Ryan on Harry Douglas’ contribution to the offense

Falcons defensive line coach Bryan Cox

Falcons tight end Levine Toilolo

Falcons assistant head coach Terry Robiskie on Devin Hester

Falcons coach Mike Smith on OTAs

16 comments
BigCrimson75
BigCrimson75

What a horrific excuse for a group of professional LBs!!

This is squarely on hair-gel.

------

Why didn't we pick up Brandon spikes on the cheap for 1year? When you're getting out-foxed by the crew in buffalo, time to reassess! :(

Basically our defense comes down to a pair of undrafted free agents!! :(

............and oh yes, Worrilow & Bartu aren't that good. :(

JSSN
JSSN

Now back to the topic at hand, Linebackers! The Falcons have the nucleus for a solid linebacking rotation. However, do not confuse that with a nucleus of dynamic game-changing linebacking corp. 

I've always called Biermann: "a poor man's Karl Mecklenburg." I got derided for it, but the statement still stands true. Nolan has borne it out by the impetus that he's place on his position in the scheme. Love him or hate him, the DC is tying his defense's success to his play.

Meanwhile, now that the foolishness of counting on Sean Weatherspoon is behind them for 2014. The rest of the "potential" linebacking corp is a hodge-podge of talents and weaknesses. It's youth means it's going to take at least 8 games for the OCs around the NFC to get enough footage on them and the Falcons personnel packages and their tendencies. You better make hay early. It is guaranteed that league will have the anecdote for such young linebackers. However, the course of season is a training ground. Next season (2015) will have some healthy and very talented linebackers capable of helping a complicated scheme available.  

JSSN
JSSN

"We're going to save these comments until the after game articals (articles is the word) so we can ask you your thoughts after we beat you. But like in past games, you won't be around to take it."

Nothing is sadder than the annual pissing contest between the 1966 and 1967 NFL expansion teams. Seriously, I stay out of it most of the time because it is just downright silly! But no fair-minded Falcons supporter can make the above statement in good conscience. 83 games under .500 for the Saints and 98 games under .500 for the Falcons; that means in most of our lifetimes, many of us will not see either of these franchises being above .500. You call it a "rivalry." The Saints are 13-3 in the last full 16 games (since 2006) against the Falcons. The rest of the NFL calls it two crabs dragging each other back into a boiling pot! 

gfw
gfw

Everyone loved Worrilow's energy.  But he's light, and he got blocked into oblivion too often by RBs, TEs, and guards.  As Dman and SeenThatB4 say, we desperately need an upgrade at LB.  If we don't get it, we'll know that either/both Smitty & TD don't know what they're doing.  We are hurting big-time with the status quo at LB.

Dman
Dman

Linebackers will be the weak spot that we will need to overcome this year. The new additions on the Line and backfield should help overcome the lack of talent at Linebacker.

AlwaysReady
AlwaysReady

.................. Coach em' up Smitty.

Flacons_go_2-14
Flacons_go_2-14

I stll wanna no why Perrier Jerry is still on the Rooster

BigCrimson75
BigCrimson75

Wow........3 frownies on the LB corp.

That's not good hair-gel.

BigCrimson75
BigCrimson75

@JSSN I'd take half the player ol #77 was!!

That's an insult to Mecklenburg.

Hell, Rulon Jones was more productive than #71.

CobbCountyBraves
CobbCountyBraves

@Dman

We haven't had a good set of linebackers since the Super Bowl year of 1998.

CobbCountyBraves
CobbCountyBraves

@SeenThatB4

Why must you act like a 3 year old every time you appear here?  If you want to interject some comments that are intelligent, reasonable, and enlightening by all means have at it.  It would actually be enjoyable if you would stop the silly name calling and absurd suggestions and just offer your genuine perspective.


For example, the Saints are a solid, all-around team with possibly the best offensive mind in football as their head coach.  I have no problem saying this!

Dman
Dman

Keep talking seen. We're going to save these comments until the after game articals so we can ask you your thoughts after we beat you. But like in past games, you won't be around to take it. Typical trolism.

Dman
Dman

If I recall, we released him and then resigned him? Could be wrong.

Trackbacks

  1. […] AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter in his preview of the Falcons linebackers writes that rookie Prince Shembo has a shock to crack the team’s starting lineup, unseating […]

  2. […] be afforded an opportunity to start in training camp, according to what head coach Mike Smith told D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “We’ve got Prince Shembo, who we are very excited about. He’s picked up the […]

  3. […] be afforded an opportunity to start in training camp, according to what head coach Mike Smith told D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “We’ve got Prince Shembo, who we are very excited about. He’s picked up the […]

  4. […] be afforded an opportunity to start in training camp, according to what head coach Mike Smith told D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “We’ve got Prince Shembo, who we are very excited about. He’s picked up the […]

  5. […] be afforded an opportunity to start in training camp, according to what head coach Mike Smith told D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “We’ve got Prince Shembo, who we are very excited about. He’s picked up the […]